Radiant Joy Blog

How Much Sharing of the Spirit Is Encouraged on Holy Ground?

Scores of brilliant, faithful women with ample gifts of the Holy Spirit have been holding back their voices, and I was one of them . . . up until now! Today’s post tells the stories of what happened on church grounds, incidents I responded to by withdrawing my voice and no longer participating.

I’ve identified seven significant events in my life led to my shutting down my voice, all involving authority figures, but I’ll only share today the ones involving pastors. The pastors involved probably had no intention of shutting down my voice or ministry involvement entirely, and they could have had good reasons for doing so, but they certainly intended to prevent me from saying what I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to communicate. And perhaps I should have been more respectful of their authority over me. Regardless, my responses and the effects are what I’d like to discuss. I wonder whether these stories remind readers of their own experiences of having their voices stifled.

I addressed the issue of women’s limited freedom of expression and the resulting consequences in my previous post. I won’t be surprised if others can relate, even if there are specific areas where they express themselves easily. I didn’t go radio-silent. I’ve seized plenty of opportunities to voice my opinions, mainly on matters unrelated to religion. When I mention holding back, I mean not talking about my faith, about incredible things I’ve seen God do, and about fully expressing my emotions or being more assertive in certain interpersonal relationships. So yes, I’ve expressed myself often, but there are still layers left unspoken.

I left the church after college because I yearned for the tight-knit community and the shared spiritual experiences of on-campus worship and theology classes. I hadn’t formed a personal relationship with God, so the significance of sacraments eluded me. It wasn’t until I had a baby that I truly believed in a loving, Divine Creator. Experiencing the miracle of childbirth, I felt moved to express my gratitude to God at a nearby church, yet I still hadn’t accepted Jesus.

Four years later, a young mom in our town died in a car accident. I was warned by a friend that if it happened to me, I would be in hell. After two nights of tossing and turning, I spent an afternoon writing down all my sins from the past 20 years on a yellow legal pad. As if taking out an insurance policy, I entered the confessional to clear the slate. To my utter surprise, I began to sob with sorrow for offending God and adding to Jesus’ anguish. Instantly, I felt the transformative power of the Holy Spirit baptizing me, bringing peace, and forever altering my life.

I dove into practicing the Catholic faith. Among other things, I volunteered with a ReMembering ministry to help former Catholics learn how the church had changed and determine whether to re-join. We organized a “sacraments fair” one evening, with stations for baptism, communion, confession, and more. I was at the Confession Station, a circle of folding chairs for parishioners, the pastor, Father Bill, and open seating for visitors. When questioned about what it was like, returning to confession after a lengthy period, I recounted my experience. Father Bill (who had heard my pivotal confession) shut me down, remarking, “Your story isn’t what everyone can expect, so don’t share that any more.” A spiritual figure of power had hushed me from sharing the truth of what God had done for me.

Another Spirit-loving friend and I ended up teaching third grade Sunday school four years later. To create meaningful experiences, so we ensured that each student had a children’s Bible and a journal. We encouraged the class to act out Bible stories. A young priest visited each week with his guitar to lead us in simple praise songs, urging us to stand and use hand motions to accompany the lyrics like “from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky, Lord, we lift your name on high.” We maintained regular communication with the students’ parents, and they seemed very happy. One family with two boys in the class asked us to sponsor their sons’ for their baptisms and first communions that Easter.

In preparation for Pentecost, we sent a letter to parents, inviting them to watch their children act out Acts of the Apostles and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Father Bill was approached by a parent who pointed out a comment about our inability to predict exactly how the Holy Spirit might make his presence felt, drawing on the Biblical description of the Spirit as a blowing wind. Father Bill forbid the play and fired us for not being in control of the classroom! Wham! Stifled again!

I was taking minutes at a parish council meeting around an oblong conference table in the old school library, 400 miles north, eight years later, during a national election year. Out of the ten members, five veered off the agenda and had fiery political exchanges. I’d been silently praying to the Spirit for around five minutes when I felt prompted and proposed, “Why don’t we pause and pray?” I intended to present the well-known invocation, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love.” The pastor halted me, saying, “We have a long agenda. We don’t have time to pray.” The shock left me speechless. I went on a church-hunting spree for a few months. This marked the third incidence of being silenced for bringing up something about the Holy Spirit.

Last week I received insights as to how and why voices capable of uplifting others have been silenced. Thankfully, I received healing prayer, forgave, and was blessed by these prophetic words: “You Have Your Voice Back. Now Serve Me.” Albeit in writing, the two posts this week on expressing oneself are meant to encourage others to become free of any restraints on self-expression. Please comment below or email me if you’d like to comment.


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